“Keep out!”, Georgina Verbaan, a Dutch micro celeb, curtly replied, when controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders commemorated brilliant Jazz singer Amy Winehouse in a tweet.
In that one aggressive message she appropriated things that should be universal. Compassion, commemoration and comfort.
A person, shunned by the self proclaimed elite, should have no feelings. Let alone show compassion. A bogeyman should not show he can mourn a tragic fate, that he too likes music. Certainly if his taste overlaps with that of people like Georgina Verbaan, the good people, the anointed.
Monsters should remain monsters.
The rejected should not smile at children, not enjoy the scent of flowers or music. That’s for the good people.
Good people with good feelings.
In commemorating Amy Winehouse, Wilders tarnishes Georgina’s memories and excellent taste.
And distorts her binary vision, in which she represents Heaven and the other one Hell. The inhuman. The subhuman. The Untermensch.
What does that actually mean “to commemorate”?
For me, commemoration is nothing more than “actively reviving memories”. Again and again bringing to life what should never be forgotten. So that evil is kept at bay, less likely to be repeated. And If so, certainly not by me.
Every single day I commemorate the hell that lies closest to my heart. It is my duty to the hundred thousand Dutch Jews who, in a few years’ time, were send to their destruction. Painfully efficient and virtually without any civil resistance. Transported to the biomass factories of Treblinka and Sobibor.
Neighbours, playmates, co-workers, toddlers, babies, pretty girls, grannies.
The Netherlands, my country, my people, they stood by and looked away. Good people.
It was my good people that took away their houses, their art and possessions.
My good people sold them their yellow stars and train tickets to the camps. My good civil servants stamped their Ausweiss with a J, handed them over to the SD for a few Rijksdaalders.
Good people who were very able to strip other people of all that is human, without much ado. Good people, like Georgina Verbaan.
“Die Menschlichkeit gehort das Herrenvolk.”
I commemorate every day, through study and contemplation, out of respect and shame, but also so that I may recognise the telltale roadsigns that lead to iron-clad soles on trampled blood-soaked paths.
I commemorate every day. And thus, I can see that we have started to walk, not identical but similar paths once again.
Once again innocent groups of people are dismissed as pathogens, spreaders of disease. Once again we are being pitted against each other by screaming headlines in newspapers, and foaming politicians and talking heads on TV. Once again, groups of innocent people are being denied access to swimming pools and theatres, restaurants and beach chairs. Again there’s that hateful Ausweiss, now with a J that looks like a snowstorm. Once again, in Switzerland, people talk about a star to wear, now evolved to a sticker.
Once again, no mercy for small children and old people.
Even now there is the dehumanising, the sneering. Even now there are the false jokes, which are only funny until they become a bitter reality.
Once again many Dutch bow their heads in the slightest bit of headwind.
Once again cynical bastards capitalise on polarisation and hatred, in a time when love, brotherhood and mutual forgiveness are invaluable.
Once again there are concentration camps.
And still there are those who demand not to compare the then to the now!
Usually accompanied by horrible ad hominems and heart felt curses.
I don’t agree with those people.
To compare is to gauge.
To compare is to measure.
Comparing is learning.
To compare is to follow the tracks and see beyond to where they lead.
But comparing is different from equating.
I will never equate the hell of the Shoah to the mad hellscape being built at this moment; it is clear to me that this path to medical apartheid will end in a completely different hell than the one built 80 years ago.
Just as the icy hell of the Gulag was very different from the putrid inferno of Rwanda; far different to the hell of the witch hunts.
It is beyond rude that some people, out of impotence and blind frustration, misuse the Star of David to show their concern about what is happening to them right now.
That yellow star is sacred. It is a symbol of a hell that is not ours. A symbol we are not entitled to.
But in turn, others must recognize, that there is no exclusivity to immeasurable suffering.
And that a hell doesn’t necessarily have to take the same shape or form to be horrific.
Mark Twain spoke true words when he said. History never repeats itself, but she always rhymes.
And in the rhyme that lies under many notes, one can unerringly see what is about to go down at the end of the song.
Let’s hope the road to this new hell, meets its dead end soon.
Until then, I will continue to commemorate and compare, as if my life and everything I love depend on it.